Out of Scope Sept/Oct 2010

One Million?s a Crowd

As if the recession wasn?t already bad enough, with jobs disappearing faster than you can tweet ?I?m unemployed,? CloudCrowd, the self-proclaimed ?world?s first Labor Operating System,? has found a way to allow tasks ?to be completed anytime, anyplace, anywhere, with reliable accuracy and at a fraction of the cost of salaried employees.?

In a recent release, CEO Alex Edelstein noted that he is pleased with his company?s ?ability to execute high-volume projects? using the Internet, a proprietary platform and a ?global, on-demand labor force.? What?s more, CloudCrowd recently completed its millionth task. We don?t know what the task was, but the company says it does work for business, technology and education clients. CloudCrowd breaks large projects into discrete tasks and distributes them to its workers via Facebook.

?Clients pay only on a cost-per-task basis,? says the release, ?providing time and money savings over traditional approaches that require managers, employees, training, salaries, benefits, hardware and office expenses.? Yeah, real jobs. Nevertheless, the company says it has 25,000 workers on Facebook.

Mysterious Numbers

Have you ever listened to shortwave radio? I would have thought that, given today?s sophisticated technologies, shortwave would have gone the way of tube amplifiers and rotary phones. Not so.

A recent story on npr.com titled ?Numbers Stations: Mystery Over The Airwaves? tells the tale of ?shadowy corners of the shortwave radio spectrum [where] you can often find mysterious mechanical voices counting off endless strings of numbers?in English, Czech, Russian and German … even Morse code.? But who?s listening? Who, indeed. And, more to the point, who?s broadcasting?

Apparently, these are known as ?numbers stations,? and they?ve been on the air for years. Many think they are the work of spies. These stations are unlicensed, and no government will admit to using them, making it virtually impossible to determine where they are broadcasting from?and why. And the encryption system they use is just about unbreakable. Spying by the numbers over an almost century-old comm technology?what will they think of next?

Amped Up About the Weather

?Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,? goes the old saw. Well, don?t say that about Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Boeing and Iridium. The trio has worked together, according to a release, to imple-ment ?a new space-based system to monitor Earth?s space environment.?

The system is called AMPERE?one of our new favorite acronyms?for Active Magnetosphere and Planetary Electrodynamics Response Experiment. In short, it provides ?real-time magnetic field measurements using commercial satellites as part of a new observation network to forecast weather in space.?

The idea is to develop a system that will allow ?24-hour tracking of Earth?s response to supersonic blasts of plasma ejected from the sun at collection rates fast enough to one day enable forecasters to predict space weather effects.?

That?s great, but is it going to rain Saturday when I?m supposed to play golf? Yeah, didn?t think you?d know.